Anyone who grows rhubarb knows the simple joy of seeing it peak through the soil in early spring. It’s as if it is calling to all of the other plants and vegetables saying: “What are you waiting for? It’s time to grow!” If you don’t grow it yourself, it will be one of the first local products available at your farmer’s market or from your neighbor’s garden.
While the traditional strawberry-rhubarb pie is an excellent use for this early garden veggie, there are a plethora of other great options – from alternative desserts like crisps and bars, to ice cream sauce, or savory dishes like pork loin with rhubarb sauce. But one of the things we love doing with this sour stalk is creating delicious beverages to celebrate the start of gardening season.
We start with a rhubarb concentrate, which is about half-way between a simple syrup and a lemonade (the recipe we like actually includes maple syrup, mint, and lime so technically you could call this a “Rhubarb-lime-maple-mint concentrate”). The concentrate can be saved in the fridge (or frozen) and used in a variety of recipes to create delicious drinks and cocktails.
The rhubarbarita is a favorite of mine, but I also enjoy a less sugary rhubarb spritzer, and the more traditional rhubarb limeade is a kid-favorite. Our recipe for the concentrate is inspired by a recipe for sparkling rhubarb lemonade on Food 52, but we swap in lime for lemon (we find this makes a better mixed drink) and trade most of the processed sugar for local maple syrup which adds a unique taste to the final product. Instead of adding sparkling water to the whole batch, we save the concentrate. When the time comes, we make each person the drink that they prefer.
• 5 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
• 3 ½ cups water
• ¼ cup sugar
• ½ cup maple syrup
• 3 sprigs of mint
• Peel of 1 lime
• 1 cup lime juice
1. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 15-20 minutes (until the rhubarb is mushy).
2. Strain into a separate container.
3. Set aside to cool. Can be refrigerated for up to a week.
You can use this rhubarb concentrate to make a variety of drinks, I encourage you to play with the combinations and concentrations; if you like a sweeter spritzer or less alcohol in your margarita you can just increase the amount of rhubarb concentrate or seltzer to make it your own.
Simple Rhubarb Limeade To make a simple rhubarb limeade that will please kids and adults alike, simply mix equal parts rhubarb concentrate with water and serve over ice.
Rhubarb Seltzer To make a refreshing but less sweet seltzer mix 1 part rhubarb concentrate with 2-3 parts seltzer (we make our own in our SodaStream). Serve over ice with a sliced lime.
Rhubarb Spritzer For a nice wine spritzer, try 4 parts (4 oz) chilled white wine, 1 part (1 oz) rhubarb concentrate, and 1 part (1 oz) seltzer. Serve over ice with a slice of lime.
Rhubarbarita For a fun twist on the traditional margarita, mix about 3 shots (4.5 oz) rhubarb concentrate with 1 shot tequila (1.5 oz) and one-half shot Triple Sec or Gran Gala (a little less than 1 ounce). Shake with ice, pour into your glass, then add a splash of seltzer to taste. Can also be scaled up to make pitchers!
Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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